Interview with WiSA Chair, Teresa Garzon

Teresa has a degree and PhD in biology and biochemistry from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. With previous experience in academia, she has now been working in the aquaculture industry for 12 years from both perspectives – producer and supplier. Her special area of interest, however, has always been fish health and disease prevention, with the view of making the industry more sustainable.

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture?

I started to work in aquaculture without knowing I was doing so! I was working for a biotechnology company based at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) when I was asked to help to improve a lab assay that helped the salmon producers. I worked for months on it and had only limited communication with the industry.

In different ways I started to be more exposed to the industry, and it was then that I got inspired; when I saw an interesting industry investing time and money in improving, a committed sector to find solutions to their limitations, that had lots of enthusiastic people working on it.

So, although I didn’t get inspired to start in aquaculture, I got inspired to stay. 

Briefly describe your aquaculture career

I have been working in the industry for twelve years from research in both fresh and sea water health to the supply chain in the salmon production industry.

I worked seven years at MOWI and now at PatoGen Scotland offering consultancy and health services to the producers.

My interests are focused on farmed fish health research, disease prevention, and practical applications of new solutions for industry success and sustainability as well as business development.

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational?

I think there is always one or two people during your working life that inspire and help you without even being aware, only because it is the way they are. One of them for me is Dave Cockerill. It was great to have a supporting, friendly and knowledgeable manager when I started.  

How important has networking been to your career?

It has been a long process to get to the point I am now with networking, I only now realise how important this is to move forward with ideas and professionally. It is not easy to get to know people if you do not have opportunities to be part of events. You can do well at work, but you will do better if your network is good, and I wish I had more opportunities earlier on. I want that other people’s ideas don’t get lost for the lack of contacts or exposure so I now try to help with this as much as I can.

During your career, have you noticed inequalities in the sector, be it in policies or culture? If yes, what actions do you think would best address those issues?

In my opinion, equality, diversity and inclusion aren’t something that our industry took much into account until a few years ago. With more women starting in the sector we slowly have come across and have identified some barriers due to pre-judgments or mis conception from both sides. It is great to see how the realisation of this as an issue and the recognition of the advantages of a more diverse workforce has been welcome and there is willingness to change. Still, cultural manners and policies are hand in hand.

Summarising, what I think we can do to resolve issues in this matter is to have more women in roles where decision making regarding policies are taking place. Women don’t need more flexitime to look after their families better and childcare isn’t needed by women only. Also, we can work on the misconceptions around the industry that still stop women to consider it as an option.

A diverse working environment including a misrepresented group like women should be one of our missions to take the industry successfully forward.

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date?

So far, I am glad that my background has helped to develop new fish health testing that has had a great impact in prevention and treatment, in my previous work at MOWI. I am proud as well to have been part of the establishment of PatoGen in Scotland, we have grown the business to the point we could inaugurate a laboratory last year.

I am proud to chair WISA.

What advice would you give to someone (man or woman) looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career?

For some that is looking to start to work for the industry I would encourage them to talk to the people already working here, listen to more than one opinion and appreciate the numerous possibilities that are offered to develop your professional goals; it is a growing sector willing to listen to new solutions.

For someone that wants to progress I would advise them to ask questions and make sure their ideas and professional targets are heard as there is plenty of room for improvement and often someone is ready explore them.

What do you think will be the key drivers/areas for innovation for Scottish aquaculture in the next decade?

I am quite impressed with some of the vanguard technologies that are already being used in aquaculture like AI in fields like fish diagnostics and others. However, if we want to progress, we need to keep working in understanding how to deal with biological issues and make sure we are ready for an already changing climate.

Having a diverse crew is a complex assignment when our society is represented by different percentages of minorities; nevertheless, women are 50% so it should be a straightforward point for our industry to work on.

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